Implementation of CPEC Projects & The role of bureaucracy

Implementation of CPEC Projects

China’s revolutionary idea of “One Belt, One Road (OBOR)” has given a new dimension to the globalized world toward attaining “Greater Connectivity” through roads, railways and maritime routes. Due to China’s investment-friendly philosophy, CPEC is one branch of $51.5 billion (previously $46 billion) for Pakistan from the nearly one trillion dollar ‘investment tree’. Fortunately, this came as the privileged bounty for Pakistan due to the latter’s geostrategic location and the time-tested Pak-China friendship. <div>

CPEC is one glance of friendship between Beijing and Islamabad which is often described as “higher than mountains and deeper than seas”. It is the most trusty and binding force between the two countries which is also evident from the fact that it is part of China’s thirteenth five-year development plan.

The supporting stance of Pakistani civil and military bureaucracy regarding CPEC is a boost to Pakistan’s economy. It can act as a game-changer for the new emerging markets, which bear sizeable room for investments and trade. Resulting in fruition, CPEC would solve many of Pakistan’s problems, i.e. Gwadar deep sea port, economic, political and social uplift of Balochistan , resolving energy crisis, and reducing unemployment.

Assertive and hard-liner bureaucrats have been a part of Pakistan’s formulation of policies, evident since its creation. Muhammad Hassan in his article “Causes of Military Intervention in Pakistan, A Revisionist Discourse,” says, “The military-bureaucracy oligarchy occupied a dominant position and has been in effective command of state power.”

The role of bureaucracy in Pakistan is somewhat complex. Most of the government’s decisions and resolutions depend upon, and are implemented by, different bureaucratic layers. The success of policy depends on efficiency, capacity and capability of these tiers of bureaucracy as they are the protectors of state interests. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s history is marred with clashing or competing civil-military relations, and CPEC seems another manifestation of it. Military is a state institution, which is supposed to be subservient to the government, but being the most established, organized and a well-funded institution, it has a greater say in decision-making processes. This happens when there is lack of capacity and capability in elected governments to resolve issues of law and order, as well as of the security of the land.

Basically, there are two main stakeholders, China and Pakistan, in this grand project, but if we take a look at the role of Pakistani bureaucracy in the implementation of CPEC, there emerge three main stakeholders, i.e. the government (PML-N), military establishment and China. Different stakes with different ideologies, perspectives, interests and struggle for “power” to be the full authority in management of CPEC, or ‘exclusive control politics’, drive this project at the expense of national interest.

Some Areas of Discords

The role of bureaucracy starts after the initial role of the politicians i.e. agreement or pacts between governments. It is imperative here to highlight the main areas of discord between CPEC and multilayered bureaucracy of Pakistan. They are as follows:

  1. The divergence on the issue of security of CPEC between different bureaucracies.
  2. The politics of ‘exclusive control’ over CPEC; either by PML-N or by Pakistan Army.
  3. Adequate share of resources, especially on the eastern route.
  4. The debate is on centralized bureaucratic structures, administration and policymaking on     CPEC.
  5. Punjab has been given special attention; the accusation of being Punjab-centric negatively     affects centre-provinces politics.
  6. Lack of clear lines of responsibilities and coordination among different departments and     ministries.
  7. Delayed completion of different projects, as most are not meeting the time schedule.


Some measures for the successful implementation of CPEC are presented hereunder:

The slow progress on CPEC is mainly due to inter-provincial mistrust and discord between the bureaucracies. Firstly, there is an urgent need to shed trust deficit among the provinces as well as to quell the bureaucratic infighting. There should be an amelioration of our national narrative and it should be strong and unified. The basis of Pakistan is Islamic ideology, i.e. brotherhood and fraternity, but it is not being followed in letter and spirit. This is leading toward religious and political eccentricity.

The hydra-headed bureaucracies are occupying offices where they think politics is a profession for earning money. As stated by Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, “For the ordinary people, democracy is a struggle for survival. For the affluent, democracy means getting more money and state power.” Sadly, corruption is one of the main ailments Pakistan is suffering from badly, and the recent gift from China of CPEC is also bearing the ill-effects.

Syed Hamzah Saleem Gillani articulated in his article that, “Corruption by politicians is with the connivance of bureaucrats, no action can be expected from the political leadership against the corrupt bureaucracy either.” It is a gigantic task to find an honest civil servant, a land-tiller and a herdsman, etc. In Pakistan, a very dismal picture comes up when one considers a population of 200 million and the number of educated persons in scientific and industrial field. In this regard, Pakistan should follow the model of a country like Singapore that has been extremely good in eliminating this evil i.e. ‘corruption’.

As regards CPEC, bureaucracies of Pakistan and China should work out plans to execute the project together. In China, capital punishment is awarded in corruption cases; therefore, there will be minimum corruption. As far as road projects are concerned, Pakistan has roped in firms from public sector which will supervise the construction projects efficiently. WAPDA is suitable for consultancy on power projects. Hence, it is needed that technocrats and specialists supervise the projects under CPEC. On every step, there are chances of corruption but it is less in countries where capital punishment for the crime of graft is in vogue. If bureaucracies of China and Pakistan work jointly, all phases of completion of projects will complete in time and within resources. Hence giving veto power to China, the main beneficiary in all phases, can minimize corruption.

Without an iota of doubt, Indian as well as externally-sponsored terrorism is presently distortive to the narrative of Pakistan. Terrorist activities are now being used as strategic tools to isolate Pakistan in the global arena. The Quetta attack of August 8 has been widely condemned as it is seen as an attempt by the India’s “RAW” to sabotage the CPEC. Looking back, it is very sad to recollect our joining the war of “others”. It is more a matter of concern how the nation was duped in to joining the war. If we look at the materialistic side, then no sane person would have even dreamed to win such a war in five to six months. The leaders on our side could not think to pay out our loans and own all war equipment brought in this theatre of operation by the allied forces. We have reached a critical phase and do not know the chicaneries of Mr Modi and his ally, the USA. Therefore, there is an urgent need for healthy engagement with all neighbours. Pakistan has to settle issues with Afghanistan and Iran as well.

Indian foreign policy makers, strategists and statesmen consider propaganda as an effective tool and use it against their enemies along with conventional weapons. Indian strategy is not to physically invade Pakistan (nuclear weapons act as deterrent) but to internally erode Pakistan through terrorism and other nefarious acts. Pakistan’s foreign ministry needs to be proactive regarding the benefits of CPEC.

CPEC would be a grand source of linkages, backward and forward. Backward linkages will enhance the significance of local raw material and CPEC will provide forward linkages through connectivity. “From bolts and nuts to cheap cars come from China and all Pakistani industries will be closed one by one,” this must be acknowledged by the Pakistani bureaucracy; and hence their emphasis should be on creating and establishing new industries inside Pakistan. Aadil Nakhoda in “The ‘E’ in CPEC” says, “A viable industrial development strategy is a prerequisite for economic growth. It is imperative that strategies are evolved that involve appropriate industrial policies as otherwise CPEC will just be a ‘transit’ route with no added benefits to Pakistan.”

Bureaucracy must play its vital role in the implementation of each and every stage of small or mega projects i.e. on the completion of any project, results should be communicated timely. Further, healthy engagement of common people, especially the Bloch youth, is essential. Utilization of local people’s talent will add an impetus to the CPEC projects. Training them in modern technologies would create employment opportunities for them and wean them off frustration and violence.

Since the bureaucratic structure in Pakistan is complex and prone to corruption; therefore, frequent inspection of different projects by the Chinese is essential for successful implementation. Explicit demarcation of job, authority and responsibility with no hazy roles only will make the CPEC successful.

The role of media can also not be ignored in the age of technology. Media, either electronic or print, have to play a responsible role. Knowledge or introduction of any project’s inauguration to the common people for jobs-generation should be transmitted by media in a positive manner.  Avoiding sensationalism and overly-negative outlook toward CPEC projects would be tantamount to jeopardizing or delaying the projects and it will create mistrust between Pakistan and China.

CPEC is the cherished dream for China and Pakistan to economically strengthen the economies of both the countries. It benefits both countries’ national interest. But, this cannot be achieved without consensus among major stakeholders. Each level of bureaucracy in Pakistan should be concerned about their specific task and its implementation rather than having an eye on others or to consider one better or belittle others. There should be, in addition, proper checks and balances to restrain the unbridled power of bureaucracies.

Pakistan’s bureaucracy must play down the talk of creation of “Special Cells” to gain political mileage in the name of interprovincial harmony as this could bring negative effects. Although a good offer from China for the vital projects i.e. power generations, communications, etc., it should be planned and executed jointly when and where some snag develops. Pakistan army can bridge the gap where necessary.

Last but not least, the government should exert its authority and play its role to cleanse the bureaucratic politics on CPEC. Abbas Nasir suggests that “the government should convince Balochistan and KP that the ‘P’ in CPEC stands for Pakistan and not for a province that forms the PML-N’s power base.” If this is done, CPEC would be an epitome of Pak-China friendship and a real “game-changer” for the region, ushering peace, progress and prosperity.

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